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End to Poverty in China
In a speech on February 25, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that China had eliminated extreme poverty. China defines extreme poverty as surviving on $1.69 a day. Over an eight-year period, President Xi Jinping stated that almost 100 million individuals rose out of poverty in China, ultimately putting an end to poverty in China. As the news of President Xi Jinping’s official declaration of China’s successful fight against poverty spreads worldwide, China’s anti-poverty legislation has become a popular topic for anti-poverty advocates, especially considering the vast history of poverty in China. China’s anti-poverty initiatives and reports have also acquired a fair amount of international criticism as the country continues to claim victory in eliminating extreme poverty.

China’s Battle Against Poverty: A Brief History

Following the impact of Chairman Mao Zedong’s failed Great Leap Forward initiative in the 1950s, approximately 10 to 40 million people died between 1959 to 1961 in what is labeled as the “most costly famine in human history.” However, economic reforms beginning in 1976 reshaped the economy as Deng Xiaoping granted farmers rights to their own plots, which led to better living conditions and more food security.

Since China opened up its economy in 1978, GDP growth has averaged about 10% a year and an estimated 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 40 years, according to the World Bank. After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and lifted trade barriers and tariffs, growth increased even more as China grew into the economic superpower it is today.

Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, eliminating extreme poverty in China became even more of a priority. Over the last eight years, China has spent 1.6 trillion yuan, or $248 billion, to put an end to poverty in China. Local officials even traveled door-to-door in some communities, delivering assistance either in the form of loans or farm animals. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterreś describes China’s anti-poverty efforts within the last decade as the “greatest anti-poverty achievement in history.”

China’s Anti-Poverty Infrastructure

China has issued a large number of subsidies to create jobs and build better housing over the last decade in order to put an end to poverty in China. Since 2015, local governments have constructed “more than 700,000 miles of roads.” As the most impoverished province in China, the Guizhou province alone spent RMB 1.8 trillion ($280 billion) on anti-poverty projects. Beijing has invested $700 billion in loans and grants for poverty reduction efforts in the past five years, amounting to about 1% of the nation’s annual economic output, according to The New York Times.

Critics and Sustainable Solutions

With China’s tremendous recent success in ending extreme poverty, critics globally questioned the sustainability of China’s anti-poverty strategies. The World Bank country director for China, Martin Raiser asserts the World Bank’s standing that “China’s eradication of absolute poverty in rural areas has been successful.” However, due to the resources utilized, Raiser is uncertain whether the poverty reduction is “sustainable or cost-effective.”

Critics also point out that China’s poverty relief programs only aid people in extreme poverty and do little to help the population just above the poverty threshold. The government’s poverty aid program eligibility excludes car owners, people with more than $4,600 in assets, homeowners and people who recently rebuilt a house. According to a New York Times report, “people hovering just above the government’s poverty line struggle to make ends meet, but are often denied help.”

The World Bank reports that China’s growth from “resource-intensive manufacturing, exports and low-paid labor” has reached its limits and has led to social and economic imbalances across society. The World Bank also reports that while China is the only major economy that has achieved positive growth in 2020, that growth has been uneven as wealth inequality and other societal imbalances in China have increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s Influence and Anti-Poverty Progress

While organizations, including the World Bank, are urging China to focus on societal imbalances informing sustainable anti-poverty solutions, the recent success of China’s anti-poverty legislation is a significant accomplishment for the nation and the world. As reported by the United Nations, China’s anti-poverty efforts contribute significantly to advancing global efforts to alleviate poverty by 2030, the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal.

China’s anti-poverty work has raised the current standard for all world leaders aiming to combat poverty within their own nations, especially when understanding how far China has come in anti-poverty efforts over the last few years and even the last century.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Private Sector BusinessesThe U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be met by 2030, are 17 goals aimed at increasing environmental and socially sustainable solutions to poverty, inequality and injustice, among other things. The goals are both ambitious and achievable but funding gaps hamper the progress of these goals. Through conscious investments toward SDGs, private sector businesses could close this gap. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres calls on business leaders to use their positions of power, finance and influence to help meet the SDGs, to the benefit of the entire globe.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the U.N. created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The overarching aim of the SDGs is, “peace and prosperity for people and the planet.”

The goals principally involve less discrimination worldwide, eliminating poverty, giving more individuals more economic and educational success, increased justice, prioritizing the environment, improving global health and more.

The SDGs are meant for everyone to tackle, from the average person to national governments and major corporations such as private sector businesses.

The Need for SDG Funding

Reaching all 17 SDGs by 2030 will cost between $5-7 trillion per year, according to the United Nations. Although in 2016, development assistance funds hit a high of $142.6 billion, there is still a need for a much greater infusion of funds and a significant need for the support of private sector businesses.

The lack of available funds from the public sector, specifically, is the main reason why there has not been more progress toward the SDGs. Public sector sources of funding are predominantly national governments and government organizations.

Referencing this lack of funding, Guterres lamented the lack of progress made toward the SDGs and urged business leaders in the private sector to step up. “We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities,” states Guterres. “No one business can afford to ignore this effort and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.”

Businesses Leading Change Through SDGs

Because there is an apparent need for more corporations to invest in SDGs, it is important to recognize those businesses fighting poverty through a commitment to achieving the SDGs.

The U.N. and 30 leaders of multinational companies created the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance in September 2019. They immediately began supporting initiatives for clean energy in Latin America, Africa and Asia, among other goals.

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative drafted the Principles for Responsible Banking to serve as guidelines for banks to commit themselves to the SDGs. Worldwide, more than 200 banks have committed to these principles. This figure represents more than one-third of the global banking industry. The signatory banks must report on their achievements, goals and growth regarding the principles. They must also accomplish all principle requirements within a set timeline. This ensures tangible strides toward actualizing the SDGs.

The company, PepsiCo, is also making good strides with the SDGs. It is committed to multiple projects in agreement with specific SDGs. The company established a “Green Bond” worth $1 billion in 2019 to do so.

A notable project is the company’s aspiration to restore 100% of the water it uses for manufacturing to areas that are “high water risk.” It aims to do this by water reuse and recycling initiatives, supplying smallholder farmworkers with “water-saving technologies” and sustainable agricultural techniques. PepsiCo cites SDG 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation,” SDG 15, “Life on Land” and SDG 12, “Responsible Consumption and Production,” as aligning with this particular objective.

The Contribution of Foundations

Private sector businesses fighting poverty go beyond business transactions and profitable decisions. Many companies commit to progressing the SDGs by supporting foundations. Top contributing foundations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund and Gothic Corporation. Total global funding for the SDGs from foundations is upwards of $216 billion.

All these examples of private sector businesses committing to the SDGs prove it is a worthwhile endeavor that needs support on a broad scale. In the words of Guterres, “Corporate leadership can make all the difference to creating a future of peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet.”

Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

G20 Initiatives to Support the Global EconomyThe G20 is a group of 20 leading nations (19 countries and the European Union) that gather for high-level discussions on macro-financial, socio-economic and development issues on a global scale. Together, they comprise almost 90% of global GDP and 80% of global trade. This year, the G20 summit will be held from November 21-22, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Supporting the Global Economy Amid COVID-19

This October, the G20 highlighted the importance of prioritizing the global fight against COVID-19 and doing “whatever it takes” to support the global economy. As part of their plan to bring COVID-19 under control, the G20 has pledged to invest upwards of $5 trillion to support the global economy. This is in response to the widespread economic consequences of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

The U.N. has previously spoken out about the importance of the G20 coming together to develop a plan for tackling the novel coronavirus. In March 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the G20 directly in New York, saying that “solidarity is essential, among the G20 and with the developing world, including countries in conflict.” He added that the pandemic requires a “war-time plan to fight it.”

“While the liquidity of the financial system must be assured, our emphasis must be on the human dimension. We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to protect jobs,” Guterres continued.

Guterres also called for debt relief, economic and social support to developed countries and a stimulus package.

Solutions to Support the Global Economy

To support the global economy as a whole, the G20 will likely be required to heed the aforementioned requests from the U.N. Additionally, economic forecasts show that developing countries are at much greater risk of economic anxiety due to the socio-economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in contrast to developed countries which are already showing signs toward economic recovery.

The G20 has now also agreed for the first time on a “Common Framework” to handle low-income countries facing debt, which is a monumental step forward for global debt relief. This framework is expected to be finalized at the November meeting.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF has commented on this achievement. “I am encouraged by G20 discussions on a Common Framework for Sovereign Debt Resolution as well as on our call for improving the architecture for sovereign debt resolution, including private sector participation,” said Georgieva on October 15, 2020.

The G20 has also agreed to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) by six months. This means it will now freeze official bilateral debt payments until the end of 2020. The G20 has also stated that another six-month extension will be considered in April. This is significant progress from the G20’s past stance regarding the global debt agenda.

Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

3RF: Helping Lebanon Recover from the Beirut Explosion
The United Nations has announced a new plan to support Lebanon after Beirut’s deadly explosion in August 2020. Operating in conjunction with the World Bank and the European Union, the U.N. has named its program 3RF, short for “Reform, Recovery[ ] and Reconstruction Framework.” Lebanon has long struggled under the weight of political and economic crises, which the explosion in its capital city only exacerbated. Therefore, 3RF comes as an effort from the international community to improve conditions in Lebanon over the long term.

An Explosion in the Capital

Shortly after 6 p.m. local time on August 4, 2020, a colossal explosion at Beirut’s port sent shockwaves rippling through the city. The disaster killed 200 people, injured thousands more and rendered approximately 300,000 individuals—out of the city’s total population of 2 million—homeless and destitute.

Officials have since identified the cause of the explosion as 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, a chemical found in fertilizer. A welding project in one of the port’s warehouses sparked a fire that triggered the blast.

Shockwaves blew out windows at Beirut International Airport five miles away, and scientists from the United States Geological Survey reported that these equated to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. Besides destroying commercial buildings and residential properties, the explosion also incapacitated three major hospitals and more than 24 clinics. Victims flooded the remaining healthcare centers, placing further strain on a system already contending with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, Lebanon was beset by problems before the August 2020 explosion. Public discontent has simmered for years, stoked by political corruption, economic hardship and a government struggling to provide services like reliable power and clean drinking water.

In October 2019, following a foreign currency shortage and the eruption of major wildfires, the Lebanese government announced new taxes in a bid to raise desperately needed revenue. However, the Lebanese government scrapped the plans after large-scale protests gripped the country.

Then, after lockdown measures underwent implementation in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, Lebanon’s economic crisis worsened. As businesses had to fire employees or place them on furlough without pay, prices on basic goods rose to prohibitory levels. In May 2020, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab wrote in The Washington Post that much of the country’s population had ceased buying meat and fresh produce and that soon people would be unable to afford bread.

Poverty and Corruption

The blast in Beirut has significantly compounded the hardships that Lebanese people have faced. Many residents within the financial capital have experienced trauma, including older citizens for whom the explosion brought up memories of the violent Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Additionally, more than 55% of the country lives below the poverty line, almost doubling the percentage registered in 2019. Extreme poverty has also surged within the past year, rising from 8% to 23%.

Unfortunately, corruption among Lebanese political elites has meant the lack of a government-led recovery plan. Popular protests in the wake of revelations about mismanagement of the ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port led to the mass resignation of then Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. Instead, volunteers and NGOs have spearheaded efforts to clean up the city. Funds raised abroad have gone straight to these NGOs on the ground, bypassing the Lebanese government due to the international community’s lack of trust in its leaders.

3RF and Lebanon’s future

The program 3RF aims to address the desperate situation in Lebanon. Announced at the recent International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People, the plan underscores urgent needs for political reform to solve the root causes of Lebanon’s economic crisis. Such reforms will facilitate recovery and reconstruction in the long run.

For his part, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called upon political leaders in Lebanon “to put aside partisan political interests and form a government that adequately protects and responds to the needs of the people.” The International Monetary Fund also promised to help but emphasized the importance of active participation from a legitimate Lebanese government during the reform process.

Conditions for Lebanon’s people have been difficult during 2020. Stemming from a spiraling economy and political corruption, the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port exacerbated these hardships. With thousands of people homeless and poverty rising, the U.N.’s 3RF will hopefully provide immediate relief while also laying the foundation for better governance in the future. Pressure from the international community can likewise encourage Lebanese leaders to form a new government and begin implementing necessary reforms.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Investing in Peace
The World Bank recently estimated that, by 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor would live in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS). FCS have serious impacts on poorer countries: conflicts reduce GDP growth, on average, by 2% a year and force millions of people to flee their homes. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has more than doubled since 2012, exceeding 74 million in 2018. Of these people, almost 26 million are refugees, the highest percentage ever recorded, with developing countries hosting 85%. This puts a financial and social strain on host countries while also devastating generations of refugees. Constant displacement makes it difficult for refugees to maintain a stable source of income, have consistent access to basic necessities and receive an education. In fact, one in five people in countries that FCS affects suffers simultaneously from inadequate monetary, educational and basic infrastructure resources, making social mobility difficult. As a result, investing in peace is very important.

The Correlation Between FCS and Poverty

There seems to be a correlation between living in FCS and poverty, as the 43 countries with the highest poverty rates in the world are in FCS in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank data shows that economies in FCS have maintained poverty rates of over 40% in the past decade, while economies that have escaped FCS have cut their poverty rates by more than half. On an individual level, a person living in FCS is 10 times more likely to experience poverty than a person living in a country that has not experienced fragility or conflict in the past 20 years.

A solution to poverty might be investing in peace: invest in businesses, organizations or development agencies that work to lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. While humanitarian interventions may bring about peace in the short term, they often do not address development after the establishment of peace. In addition, many conflicts around the world have become protracted and complicated, making humanitarian interventions less effective in the long run. Development agencies, on the other hand, work to establish peace in three-time frames: before, during and after conflict.

Before Conflict

One important step in lessening the prevalence of FCS around the world is to prevent conflict before it begins. This means identifying and addressing a point of conflict within a country or community before it becomes widespread, complex and potentially violent. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, emphasized the importance of investing in conflict prevention: “Instead of responding to crises, we need to invest far more in prevention. Prevention works, saves lives and is cost-effective.” Estimates have determined that for every $1 the United States spends on conflict prevention, it saves $16 in future response costs. On a larger scale, this finding emphasizes the importance of investing in peace to curb the need for an expensive humanitarian intervention when the conflict is widespread, complex and violent.

One example of an American law promoting investments in conflict prevention is the Global Fragility Act of 2019. It focuses on U.S. foreign aid to prevent violent conflict in fragile countries and strengthens research to identify foreign assistance programs that are most effective at preventing conflict and violence. The act authorizes $1.15 billion over the next five years to fund violent conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts in countries in FCS. The act also benefits U.S. taxpayers, since violent conflict prevention is much more cost-effective than containing a conflict through humanitarian intervention.

During Conflict

Some development agencies around the world make medium-term to long-term investments in countries with ongoing, protracted conflicts. The investments aim to preserve human capital and strengthen local institutions working to promote peace and protect civilians. These investments serve as a social safety net for those at risk, providing them with basic necessities and services such as access to water, food and education. Violent conflicts can significantly affect the accumulation of human capital in a population, and the effects can be long-lasting if the conflict is prolonged across generations. Thus, it is important to provide people with this social safety net to ensure that they can rebuild their lives economically and socially after the conflict ends.

A successful example of investment in a country amid conflict is the World Bank’s investments in Yemen. Yemen has been in crisis for nearly a decade, since the Houthis overthrew its government, resulting in what the U.N. has called “the worst [humanitarian crisis] in the world.” Millions of people have been internally displaced while suffering from medical shortages and threats of famine. The World Bank’s International Development Association has allocated $400 million to creating jobs and providing refugees with essential resources under its Emergency Crisis Response Project (ECRP). As a result, 4.3 million people have received access to community services (water, sanitation, better roads, etc.) and 9.5 million workdays have emerged. Another component of the ECRP is a $448.58 million cash transfer to poor and vulnerable households. As of April 9, 2020, the transfers had reached 1.42 million households or 9 million individuals. The World Bank’s Engagement Strategy for Yemen 2020-2021 will continue funding for the ECRP and other initiatives to provide essential services, preserve Yemen’s human capital and strengthen local organizations helping those in need. 

After Conflict

Investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is another way in which development agencies can help those living in FCS. Investments in peacebuilding can supplement humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts by promoting economic and social growth after a conflict has ended. An important part of promoting economic growth is investing in micro to medium-sized businesses as a means to create jobs and jumpstart the local economy. It is also important to invest in the government to ensure that it can provide its citizens with essential services and resources well after the conflict has ended.

One agency investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is the United Nations (U.N.) Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The PBF is a financial instrument used to sustain peace in countries in FCS. The PBF invests with other U.N. entities, governments, multilateral banks, NGOs and national multi-donor trust funds. Since its inception, 58 member states have contributed to the fund, with the allocation of $772 million to 41 recipient countries from 2006 to 2017. The Secretary General’s PBF 2020-2024 Strategy calls for the investment of $1.5 billion to countries in FCS over the next five years. The largest distribution of funds (35%) will go towards facilitating transitions from humanitarian missions to peacebuilding and future development. 

Looking Forward

Preventing, creating and maintaining peace in FCS is a daunting task that may take years to accomplish in certain areas. It is important to invest in peace at all three stages of conflict to save lives, save money and preserve resources. There are currently numerous multilateral aid agencies investing billions of dollars into countries in FCS, and one would hope that these efforts, along with humanitarian interventions, will lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. Investing in peace could be the beginning of the end of global poverty, and if the world works together to lessen FCS, it could lift millions of people across out of poverty globally.

Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr 

gender inequality during covid-19Pandemics have far-reaching impacts, such as economic downturns and overburdened healthcare systems. Previous outbreaks, such as Zika and Ebola, revealed that infectious diseases tend to highlight existing structural problems in countries with regard to age, race and gender. In fact, recent data from the pandemic has shown that the outbreak is deepening already existing gender inequalities. According to the U.N. Women’s current analysis of the situation, there are five critical areas where women are impacted the most that must be addressed immediately. These areas include the increase in the risk of gender-based violence due to lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates. COVID-19 has also exacerbated unemployment the unequal distribution of care and domestic work. Additionally, despite the increase in gender inequality during COVID-19, many policy responses to the pandemic do not involve gender-based planning.

Gender Inequality During COVID-19

According to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Already we are seeing a reversal in decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights. And without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.” Guterres also touched on the rise of unpaid care work due to school closures. The care of seniors and children disproportionately falls on women who must abandon paid work to care for these individuals. This is one example of gender inequality during COVID-19, as an existing inequality has worsened amidst the pandemic.

Inadequate PPE is another pre-existing condition that has worsened for women during the pandemic. About 70% to 90% of healthcare workers are women, yet protective equipment is usually made to fit men. This means that women who are putting their lives at risk every day to care for those infected with COVID-19 are at a higher risk of infection. Guterres put out a call to action to protect women’s rights globally and make sure that the pandemic does not reverse progress on gender equality. The U.N.’s response to this has three phases. These include the health response, the mitigation of the social and economic crises and building a more equal future for women after the pandemic.

U.N. Women’s Response

U.N. Women is focusing on many different areas to respond to gender inequality during COVID-19. It is working to raise awareness about these issues and supporting data collection and assessments. U.N. Women also provides access to essential services, supports women-run enterprises and engages the private sector for aid. With these actions, U.N. Women hopes to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on increased domestic violence, unpaid care work and economic inequality. U.N. Women also hopes to involve women affected by COVID-19 in decision-making and leadership positions to fight for gender equality.

A Global Effort

U.N. Women has offices around the globe that connect with as many countries as possible. For example, U.N. Women Afghanistan has launched a COVID-19 prevention program called Salam for Safety. This program engages women as central leaders in containing the spread of the disease. U.N. Women Vietnam is working with UNICEF to ensure the safety of women and stop the spread of COVID-19 in quarantine centers. Similarly, U.N. Women China has created programs to engage women and raise awareness about gender inequality during COVID-19. U.N. Women also has existing programs that it is scaling up to support women during this time.

It is clear that this pandemic is harming progress made on gender equality in the past few decades. However, the support of the private and public sectors globally can help maintain this progress. The inequalities highlighted by COVID-19 may provide a good opportunity to recognize all the work that remains before we can achieve total gender equality.

Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic
The Syrian Arab Republic is a country in the Middle East that has a rich and unique history going as far back as 10,000 years ago. More recently, political instability led to the Syrian civil war which has created a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond its borders. It has been nearly a decade since the Syrian civil war first began in 2011. The U.N. approximated that over 13 million people in Syria were in need of some type of humanitarian assistance. Over 5 million people seek asylum in the surrounding countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic soared to the forefront of the humanitarian crisis.

Nearly one-third of Syria’s population is dealing with food insecurity partly due to an increase in food prices. The COVID-19 lockdown measures and the collapse of the Lebanese economy have caused food prices to increase by 200%. This makes them 20 times higher than they were before the civil war. Additionally, Syria’s local currency has been devalued by two-thirds. Consequently, people cannot afford to buy available food.

Efforts to Alleviate Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic

  • Turkish Exports: In May 2020, the U.N. placed restrictions on exports as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19. Shortly after, the U.N. authorize Turkish exports to alleviate hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic. This aid from Turkey is a crucial survival source for 2.8 million people in the northwestern part of Syria.
  • Extending the Lifeline: The U.N.’s Emergency Relief is working to extend intraregional aid deliveries. The U.N. has authorized aid deliveries to the Syrian people in several resolutions since April 2012. The latest resolution, resolution 2504, was to expire in July 2020. On May 14, 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres requested that the Security Council extend the authorization of this cross-border aid for another 12 months. In Guterres’ report, he noted that this U.N. cross-border operation helped an average of 2 million Syrians each month in 2019.
  • Large and Small-scale Efforts: Many formerly displaced people have returned to their land. However, many people are facing issues resuming food production. As of June 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) introduced several programs to help more than 300,000 households at risk of food insecurity. About 155,000 households will directly benefit from livestock production support which includes vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments. On a smaller scale, about 3,000 households will benefit from better nutrition that local school food gardens provide.
  • Creative Solutions: Since 2012, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has provided more than $3 billion in emergency food relief. In January 2020, USAID committed to providing emergency food assistance through two specific methods. Firstly, USAID is providing emergency food aid to newly displaced peoples through ready-to-eat rations, food vouchers and locally or regionally procured food baskets. Secondly, they are continuing to support local bakery inventions to help with the production of bread. The FFP has helped over 4 million people in Syria and over 1 million Syrian refugees since 2012. 

It is evident that hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic is the result of a combination of factors following the eruption of the civil war. International organizations and NGOs dedicated their resources to help the Syrian people, especially as COVID-19 threatens much of the progress that the country has previously made.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Consequences of Violence in Nicaragua
Since April 2018, the citizens of Nicaragua have been protesting against its government. What started originally as a movement against changes to the social security program quickly turned into an opposition movement demanding President Daniel Ortega and his wife’s resignations. The protests turned violent when anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government protesters and police. As a result, these protests resulted in the killings of more than 300 people and about 2,000 people becoming injured. Here are the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua.

Human Rights Concerns

One of the consequences of violence in Nicaragua has been the concerns surrounding human rights abuses by the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Ortega administration has violated Nicaraguan citizens’ human rights by “[banning] public demonstrations by any group critical of the government, (…) [stripping] nine non-governmental organizations of their legal registration, [shutting] down media outlets, [prosecuting] journalists under the anti-terrorism law, and [expelling] international monitors from the country. The Ortega government has harassed and threatened the media, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”

Additionally, it appears that the Nicaraguan government is not only denying its people the freedoms they are entitled to, but it is also retaliating against the reports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published. This becomes especially apparent by the government’s reactions to the release of these reports: “Following the high commissioner’s first report, the Ortega administration failed to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses and instead promoted senior officials who bear responsibility for killings and torture of demonstrators. In response to the high commissioner’s second report, the government has even defended the armed pro-government thugs that participated in repressing protests.”

Forced Migration

Additional consequences of the violence in Nicaragua is the forced displacement of 80,000 Nicaraguan citizens who are no longer able to live in their home country. Many are seeking asylum and refuge in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and the United States. Of the 33,000 asylum requests that Costa Rica received in this past year, the country has only processed about 4,900 leaving more than 28,000 people to seek refuge elsewhere. Due to the mass displacement of these Nicaraguan citizens, many must survive on temporary employment or none at all, leaving them to suffer as a result.

Limited Access to Resources

One of the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua is the limited access to necessary resources such as food and health care as a result of the unexpected roadblocks that continually appear throughout the country and the capital, Managua. It is rather unclear whether these roadblocks are government-sponsored or a result of government opposition leaders, however, these often lead to detours and inconveniences when Nicaraguans are attempting to access grocery stores and gas stations. Additionally, government hospitals across the country have begun denying treatment to those who they suspect of being a part of the anti-government movement, which has led to people being unable to receive any kind of treatment for their injuries.

Economic Growth Concerns

In the past, Nicaragua has maintained a steady economic growth rate. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. However, in the last year, since the outbreak of violence and political unrest, the economy has contracted about 3.8 percent and the World Bank suspects that this contraction will grow up to 5 percent in 2019. These violent protests have caused many to lose their jobs, while also causing a decrease in consumer and business confidence. As a result, some fear that the violence in Nicaragua will cost recent progress the country has made in poverty reduction efforts.

During the years of 2014 and 2016, poverty rates in Nicaragua had fallen from 29.6 percent to 24.9 percent due to the support of international organizations such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Additionally, the extreme poverty rate also dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the same timeframe. It is too early to predict what the poverty rates will be for Nicaragua in 2019, but there is speculation that poverty rates will rise again.

Efforts by International Organizations

After six weeks of protests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation in Nicaragua by asking the government to consider allowing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the country. On many occasions, the U.N. has established its willingness to resolve the situation by acting as a mediator in “national dialogue efforts to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful resolution of differences.” Additionally, there have been requests for the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring much-needed justice and peace of mind for victims’ relatives.

Furthermore, representatives for Amnesty International have spoken out condemning the Nicaraguan governments’ repression of its people. They also suggested the creation of a committee in order to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations and crimes. In a report released by Amnesty International titled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to suppress protest,” there appears to be evidence of Nicaraguan paramilitary forces using lethal weapons against protesters, of which many were students. This report sheds light on the situation in Nicaragua and hopes to bring international awareness in order for others to take action against the repressive forces of the Nicaraguan government.

The consequences of violence in Nicaragua range from human rights concerns to limited access to health care and even issues regarding Nicaragua’s economic growth rate. Though there appears to be no end in sight, there is hope for Nicaragua’s citizens as international organizations attempt to raise awareness and investigate the ongoing crimes committed against the Nicaraguan people. The situation is far from resolution but as it gains more international interest, there is hope that efforts will not be in vain and that the country can find a peaceful resolution.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

U.N. Secretary-General
Starting in 1946, the United Nations assigned its first Secretary-General while still in its infancy as an organization. His name was Trygve Lie from Norway, and there have been eight successors since; Antonio Guterres currently serving as U.N. Secretary-General.

 

The Role of a Secretary-General

The U.N. Charter, the foundational treaty of the U.N., describes the Secretary-General as “chief administrative officer” of the Organization, “who shall act in that capacity and perform ‘such other functions as are entrusted’ to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs.”

Overall, the U.N. Secretary-General is someone who is supposed to symbolize humanitarian ideals of equality and hold an interest for obtaining peace among nations.

On a day-to-day basis, the Secretary-General attends U.N. meetings, consults with world leaders and other state officials and must remain up-to-date on important international and national relations.

In times of crisis, the U.N. Secretary-General should take it upon his/herself to speak in front of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and rally support for action. This role requires the utmost responsibility to maintain international peace and security — if there are any conflicts occurring within or between borders that goes against human rights and international security, the Secretary-General must be aware and ready to rally support.

 

The Seventh Secretary-General

One man who truly upheld and set an example in his role as U.N. Secretary-General was Kofi Annan. Annan, born in Ghana, worked for many years with the U.N. before becoming Secretary-General in 1997.

Human dignity was central to Annan’s mission with the U.N. — he sought to advance human dignity in three predominant ways:

  1. He promoted human rights standards and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  2. He worked through the U.N. institutions themselves to reform their machinery and ability to act (specifically by starting the Human Rights Council)
  3. He focused on zones of conflict to build U.N. operational efforts in needed locations

In the early 1990s, and prior to Annan’s entrance as a Secretary-General, the Cold War left the international field in a state of tension. In zones of conflict, such as during the Rwandan genocide, U.N. was seen in a negative light. Due to a lack of resources and a clear mandate for peacekeeping units to use force, the Rwandan genocide became known for its mass atrocities.

 

The Revolutionizing Ability of the Secretary-General

Annan had been Undersecretary-General at the time, and vowed to make positive changes starting in 1997; specifically, he wanted to make human rights a concept known and promoted for every member state. While the idea of protecting human rights was casually thrown around in the mid-late 20th Century, it was never fully given the attention it deserved.

During the World Summit in September 2005, all governments in attendance recognized the R2P and even gave it the nickname of being the “Annan doctrine” due to the intense lobbying the Secretary-General did during his years in office for human rights. The R2P meant that all governments within the U.N. clearly accepted their collective responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Never before had a Secretary-General put so much effort into humanitarian causes and the protection of birth right; but during Annan’s 10 years in office, U.N. peacekeeping grew both in terms of scale and efficacy. The governing body also increased the annual budget for U.N. peacekeeping from $1 billion in 1997 to $5 billion in 2006. Annan transformed not only the role of the U.N. and its member states, but positively impacted the lives of thousands (if not millions) of people.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

director of unicef
U.S. businesswoman and former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, Henrietta Holsman Fore, became the seventh executive director of the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on January 1, 2018. Fore is replacing Anthony Lake as director, whose term began in 2010. The following are 10 facts about the new director of UNICEF.

  1. Fore was the first woman to hold the position of USAID administrator, which she served concurrently while being the director of U.S. Foreign Assistance from 2007 to 2009.
  2. Prior to her senior roles in the U.S. Department of State, Fore was the 37th director of the U.S. Mint. She initiated the 50 State Quarters Program and introduced laser engraving during her tenure.
  3. She was the chairman and CEO of her family’s investment and management company, Holsman International. She also was connected to at least 14 other companies, nonprofits and think tanks, according to her professional LinkedIn page, including the Aspen Institute, the Center for Global Development, General Mills and ExxonMobil.
  4. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres announced Fore’s appointment as executive director of UNICEF on December 22, 2017. The announcement received acclaim from multiple organizations, including the U.S. State Department and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  5. Fore was chosen by Guterres in consultation with the executive board of the U.N. The executive director position of UNICEF has gone to the U.S. candidate since the organization’s creation in 1947.
  6. Fore is committed to modernizing and revitalizing foreign assistance. In a 2008 keynote address to the Center for Global Development, she discussed reforming priorities to meet the most critical needs, promoting program coordination among agencies and increasing the number of U.S. foreign assistance personnel.
  7. To Chief Executives Organization, American diplomat John Negroponte said, “[Fore] likes to roll up her sleeves…she’s an incessant traveler.” In a speech at the 2014 International Financial Forum, Fore said she had traveled to countries such as Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil and India.
  8. At the same forum, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Fore as, “one of the best appointments that I made,” and as, “one of the best public servants I’ve ever met.”
  9. Fore’s appointment aids Guterres’ mission for gender parity at U.N. senior leadership levels by 2021 and throughout the whole organization before 2030. Current findings suggest there is an inverse relationship between women’s representation and seniority at the U.N.
  10. As executive director of UNICEF, Fore will head one of the most important agencies within the U.N. The organization’s budget was $5 billion in 2017, the second largest of the U.N. agencies.

In his announcement, outgoing UNICEF director Anthony Lake said, “Henrietta Fore will bring a wealth of experience to UNICEF’s work for children.” Her appointment certainly excites individuals committed to ending global extreme poverty, and it will be compelling to witness what UNICEF accomplishes under Fore’s leadership.

– Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr